Last night in my Teaching with Technology class, we explored primary sources through the use of virtual field trips and online communication with relevant figures.
Then we sort of got off-topic. The lesson plan that I was using was one that I’d made last semester for class on election night. I wanted to take the opportunity to caution my students about sharing their own political opinions with their young elementary students. Politics are polarizing, and some people will make judgements about a person and generalize their beliefs based on which candidate they support. I think it is far more important for parents to evaluate a teacher based on the way that they’re educating their children than on which way they lean politically. Who I vote for doesn’t matter to my students. They’ll ask me who I’m voting for because they’re curious and they want to learn. But rather than telling them, I would take the opportunity to discuss both candidates and some of the issues that they agree and disagree on. Keep in mind, I taught third graders, and a lot of it was over their heads, so I’d try to keep it light and simple. A lot of times they don’t hear about the issues, they just hear the slam campaigns.
Talking about this led to a discussion on other differences that teachers might have from parents; things like religious beliefs or sexual orientation. I don’t have a lot of answers for my college students. I refuse to tell them not to express themselves; Freedom of Speech is their constitutional right. But parents expect teachers to be of the highest moral standard–higher than they hold themselves. So I told my students that the best thing they can do, when confronted with topics like religion, sexuality, politics, or whatever, is to teach tolerance. We live in a great country that was founded on diversity and freedom. The United States is literally a “melting pot” (3rd grade social studies SOL) of different cultures, races, traditions, and beliefs. Each person is unique and special and entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (3rd grade social studies SOL), and we must appreciate them for what they are and accept it.
I hope that my college students never encounter parents in the teaching profession that are upset with them for teaching children to be accepting and tolerant of all people, not matter how diverse they are.